Tag Archives: relationships

Katy Perry: Background information and interpretation of her song “Wide Awake”


She has really surprised me with some of her new songs and her complex (and probably intelligent) personality, but I still know little about her since I`ve had little time to read about her. I would love to learn more if anyone wants to share more information. Btw: Revelations and insight feel like this for me.

Thinking of You (Katy Perry song)Thinking of You (Katy Perry song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following post will begin with some short background information, before I delve into some of her romantic relationships (which often are many and troubled for people who`s been vulnerable when they grew up. Either because of being sensitive or because of trauma or neglect). This does not mean that it always will be a pattern like that, or that every person with problems had the same past). 

After reading about her earlier relationships, you will read a well-written and interesting interpretation of her song “Wide awake” that I found on the internet. I will end the post with the music video that belongs to the song.

Short background about her childhood and career:

I didn’t have a childhood,” Perry told Vanity Fair in an interview for its June edition. “I come from a very non-accepting family, but I’m very accepting.” She was the child of evangelical minister parents, who allowed her to read only the Bible and even banned terms like “deviled eggs.”

Sometimes when children grow up, their parents grow up,” she said. “Mine grew up with me. We coexist. I don’t try to change them anymore, and I don’t think they try to change me. We agree to disagree. August 24 Her Dream Comes True. “They’re excited about my success” she says.

 NEW YORK (Reuters)

Lately, the singer tops the Billboard 200 albums chart that earns her four Grammy nominations, including the coveted album of the year award.

It did also earns a 2011 Grammy nomination for record of the year for her inspirational hit “Firework”.

Katy Perry

Her relationships: overview


Perry begins dating Gym Class Heroes frontman Travis McCoy. “She’s super hot,” he tells PEOPLE of falling for his Warped tourmate. After a year of dating and even exchanging promise rings, they call it quits. “It hurts right now,” Perry says during a concert after the split. “When you breakup with someone you move on. You don’t really want to move on…but you have to because they don’t give you any choice.”  After that she was is linked to musicians Benji Madden and Josh Groban. (September)

Katy Kisses Russell

After joking about having a crush on her at the VMAs, British comedian Russell Brand and Perry take their new romance public. Three months later, Brand orchestrates a special New

Katy Perry

 Year surprise in India, where he asks Perry to marry him with a ring hidden in flowers. Perry and Brand tie the knot in

a “very private and spiritual ceremony” held at a resort in India, the

newlyweds announce in a statement. “Love between two people is the most

spectacular yet ordinary thing in the world,” the groom said in

the days leading up to the nuptials. “We’ll get married in front of our

friends and family… and keep it sort of normal.” The arrangement,

that lasted several days, treated guests to safaris, song and dance numbers and several parties (2010)

Sadly 16 months after the marriage, they got divorced.

Katy Perry

the divorced coupleA mere 16 months after exchanging vows in India, they got divorced

A New Romance

Perry gets the rumor mills buzzing when she’s photographed leaving L.A.’s Chateau Marmont with singer John Mayer. Though the pair’s romance seems to cool off shortly after, they reunite and later spend the holidays together. “They’ve spent a lot of time together and really enjoy each other’s company,” a source says. “John is entirely focused on Katy” (2013).

No More Mayer?

For the second time, Perry and Mayer split, only a month after the “Your Body Is a Wonderland” Crooner describes their relationship to CBS Sunday Morning as “something that’s very human.” But by July 4, the on-again, off-again pair appears to reconcile once more, with Perry sharing an affectionate photo of the two over Instagram.


More information about the artist:

Katy Perry

She was brought up in a very christian family, and am today “open for the possiblities” when it comes to religion. She is an explorer, and have always asked the question“Why” and not taken any “facts” for g


She wants to be a private person. Perry for example said she and Brand turned down millions of dollars for their wedding pictures because “we wanted the moment to ourselves.”She also hopes that

her music remains the focus of fans, rather than her appearance or her personal life. 

The next part will focus on trying to figure out what the video and lyrics in the song “wide awake” means. I find it interesting that this post reminds me a lot about dissociation and how one should treat it (What are dissociative disorders?).

How her song “wide awake” relates to the background information

Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” 

As Katy enters the dark labyrinth, she is lured to a lusciously red strawberry amongst the grim atmosphere. The strawberry acting as a metaphor of her sweet fame, she is as I said,

lured between the walls that close in on her. As they close, Katy sings about her “falling from cloud nine” yet pushes the walls away with a powerful light. We watch as Katy proves to us that nothing keeps her down and cornered. Soon after escaping the closing walls, Katy releases a flare from her

breast, a symbolic beacon of “help” (Also reminiscent of the pyrotechnics used in Firework). She

is then met by a child who is an artistic portrayal of her own, younger innocence. (We see later that the little girl gets on a bike labeled “KATHERYN”) The light surrounding the child and the dust flowing upward in comparison to the dark, downward-flowing dust around Katy shows us in how high of a regard she looks on her past. Katy and her younger self travel down a hallway, toward a mirror. In the mirror, Katy sees the paparazzi crowding and photographing her. The child-Katy whom she is holding hands with is not in the mirror, leaving Katy alone against the hoard of media. As we catch a glimpse of the horrid faced media Katy struggles desperately to break through the mirror, leaving it in pieces.

Katy’s struggle leaves her impaired in a wheelchair, being pushed by child-Katy. Her difficulties in life obviously wore her down and left her feeling vulnerable. While trying to pass through a hospital-like passage, the two are blocked by cow-skulled, hospital uniformed men. Child-Katy steps forward while our Katy is weak, casting the “evil” or “bad” men away. This is Katy breaking through her mentally hard times, holding onto her innocence and purity.

Katy PerryAfter taking Child-Katy’s hand once more, (literally holding on to herself and her innocence) they find themselves out of the labyrinth. The wander into a lush, green bushed area, lathered with flowers of all colors and a handsome young man on a white Unicorn. The man steps down and Katy looks ecstatic to see him until he crosses his fingers behind

his back. Katy then reacts by knocking him sideways with a beautiful punch to his cheek. We witnessed Katy’s refusal to let the men of her past, beautiful but cruel and double-crossing men, to bring her down.

The video itself takes place during the time of Katy Perry’s “Hot and Cold” and “California Girls” release, depicting that Katy was having inner self and life problems even during her rapidly rising fame. After watching her child-self ride away, Katy knows

that while she may feel alone, she is strong and pure. She isn’t in her dreams or nightmares’ anymore… She said it herself; she is “Wide Awake”.


Bareilles: Happy with success after Perry chatter

Malcolm Gladwell:

Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking

Katy Perry’s Latest Single Is Like Nothing She’s Done Before (socialitelife.com)


Perfection vs Love


I love it when something can completely change my perspective. And I love it when that change in perspective has a good impact on my life.

This happened to me when I watched another marvellous TED talk—this one was on vulnerability.

Sometimes we have a certain idea of what we should be like and when we don’t live up to this idea, we can feel disappointed, guilty, depressed or angry. I used to feel so guilty that I wasn’t what I thought I should be. I was hard on myself; I mentally berated myself all the time. Telling myself I didn’t need to be perfect didn’t work because deep down I still wanted to be perfect.

But after watching this video, something clicked. Now I believed that I didn’t need to aim for this perfect idea of myself. Instead, I’ve come to accept the me with all my flaws because I’ve learnt that having flaws isn’t a bad thing.

I’m okay with being imperfect; I’m okay with me. It was such a relief when I learnt this lesson and my perspective changed. It was like the guilt just lifted off me. There’s still things I don’t like about myself but that doesn’t mean I don’t like the whole person. Having things I don’t like about myself isn’t a reason to think the worst about me. Instead, I can accept I have things that aren’t great in my life and still say that I’m okay.

The goal isn’t to have the perfect personality, appearance, job, skills, etc. The goal is to love and be loved. Think about it this way: we can be perfect and not loved or we can be imperfect but loved. All my life I’ve wanted perfection over love. Now I want love over perfection.  That’s the key difference in my thinking. I believe people can be loved even when we’re imperfect. So there’s no need to strive for perfection anymore, unless you want perfection for perfection’s sake.

I wanted perfection because I thought it would make people, including myself, like me better. Now I just want to be myself. How amazing that when we are ourselves, people can love us more. And when we like ourselves, we’re free to love others better because we’re not worried what they’re thinking of us. We can just see them and love them, instead of see ourselves through their eyes.

I hope this helps all the people who think they need to be perfect, simply be me sharing what changed for me. I couldn’t force the change; it just happened. I hope it happens to you too.

Let go of who you think you should be, and just be. Take that burden off your shoulders of who you think you should be. Just be. You don’t have to be anyone else than who you are.

A Mask: Freedom or a Prison?


In the movie Never Been Kissed, Drew Barrymore plays Josie, a journalist who goes undercover as a high school student. In her disguise as a student she is able to deal with her identity issues while falling in love with a teacher. This idea of being in disguise is paralleled by the story her class reads, Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It,’ where Rosalind was able, through her disguise, to express her love for Orlando. The teacher makes the point that there’s a freedom that comes from being in disguise.

What the teacher said resonated with me because I can relate to it. For example, when all my friends are tipsy or drunk, and I’m the only sober one, I am so much freer because I’m not worried about what anyone thinks of me; no-one’s thinking clearly, and they’ll probably forget anyway. The disguise in this case is alcohol, and I can say what I really think and be more open. I’m the definition of cool, calm and collected but in disguise I’m free to be anything I want to be.

The same kind of thing happens when I meet a stranger or am in an environment different to my normal day-to-day life. I feel I can be whoever I want to be because the stranger or the people in the new environment don’t know anything about me. That’s why sometimes I share things with a stranger that I wouldn’t normally share with anyone else, because I feel free to be me around them. They have no expectations of me, and I probably won’t ever see them again so I’m not worried about what they’ll think of me.

So while I understand this concept of freedom coming from being in disguise and wearing a mask, there’s another part of me that wonders if a disguise is really just a disguise and a mask is just a mask. What happens when you become the disguise and you start to live a lie? There’s no freedom, just a prison.

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a prison. Have I done such a good job at being the person everyone sees, that I’ve come to believe this is who I really am? How do you know who you are when the masks you wear never come off? The mask becomes real and you become the mask. Sometimes I don’t know the difference between the mask and me. It seems like the mask and I have been moulded together over the years, and they are so deeply entwined with each other that they’ve turned into something that has become who I am, leading me to question if there is even a mask at all.

Sometimes a mask gives me freedom to let my real self come out; other times it’s a prison and all I do is hide.

The Difference A Smile Can Make


A smile makes people seem so much more confident, beautiful and approachable. Why doesn’t everyone smile then? Just because you don’t feel it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Studies have shown that smiling changes your mood. You may be feeling negative and think a smile will only come when your thoughts are positive, but it actually works the other way round too. Put a smile on your dial and your thoughts will change.

Now since I’ve written this post, it clearly means I’m aware of the power and payoff of the smile. I’m not used to the idea of behaviour changing the mind, but I know it’s true. I’ve not only read about it but I’ve experienced it for myself, not only when I smile, but when others smile. Some people can look downright scary when they’re not smiling and you just want to duck under a table when they walk past. But when they smile, their whole face lights up with warmth and it makes you want to be around them so you can bask in the glow of their smile. Because you can just tell by their smile, that at this moment, they are full of something you want – the beauty, joy, and peace in their own skin the smile reveals. And in those moments when I smile like they do, I feel like I have the same beauty, joy, and peace in my own skin too.

Sometimes I look at people who seem so unhappy all the time. I can sense their lack of confidence and their thoughts that people are judging them. I picture a smile on their face and I can just see people flocking to them because they’ve got something they want. People don’t tend to gravitate towards unhappy people; but all the unhappy person wants is for people to accept them and to connect with them. But that’s never going to happen if they have a negative outlook with an unapproachable frown on their face all the time—the frown that says, “I want you to like me but if I let you see me, I fear you won’t like me so I’m going to keep you away.” Then they wonder why no-one comes near them.

I want to tell them: Smile.

When you smile, people think you have something to offer and they won’t care what you look like, or what job you have or what past you’ve had. All these things you think people notice and will judge you by, won’t even be given a second thought, because they don’t matter. It’s only when you make them a big deal and draw attention to these things that others will see them as the barrier you put up. You may think it’s these things that stop people from connecting with you, but it’s actually your perspective about them and the resulting demeanour you have that makes you seem unapproachable. If they aren’t an issue for you, then they don’t become (or never were issues in the first place) for other people. But if you’re already expecting people not to like you before you meet them, you can make it hard to give people the chance to like you because you’ve already shut them out.

You got to give people more credit. See all those thoughts you have are reflected in the way you present yourself. Give people the chance to see you. Give them a chance to like you. No matter who you are, people are more likely to give you a chance if you give them a chance. And sometimes all a person needs to know they’ve been given a chance is a smile.

So you don’t have to have it all together, you don’t have to look the way everyone else does and you don’t have to be like everyone else for people to accept you. If you smile, people won’t care and they’ll want to know you. Because you know what I realized: A smile isn’t really about the person smiling, it’s about the people who receives the smile. As much as a smile can be for our own good and our own mood, a smile always gives something to others. There is a selflessness in smiling.

Sometimes we don’t smile, because we can’t be bothered. Because we’re too caught up in our own world and don’t feel we have anything to offer. But we all have something to offer, whether we feel like it or not. Believe it, and smile because it’s one gift we can all give to each other.

And just because I love TED Talks, here’s a video about how behaviour can change our thoughts.

Men are STILL on Mars

Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes

It is 2013! We are supposed to be progressive and current and trendy, right? So tell me, why did a very recent study show that men’s subconscious self-esteem drop significantly based on the level of success or failure of their female partner?

Shy on earth should a well-established man of the 21st century feel threatened enough to let it impact how they feel about themselves, if the woman in their life succeeds or not? Maybe I’m missing something there but are we still involved in a battle of the sexes in which women need to prove that they are worthy of being able to fail or succeed independently of having an impact on their personal relationship.

Being more than 10 years into the 21st century, I would hope that gender prejudices don’t play a starring role in personal relationships, but based on a new study men may not really feel very good when their wives or girlfriends succeed. In fact, the study, which appeared in a recent American Psychological Association publication reported that men’s self-esteem is damaged when they find their spouse or girlfriend excels; whether the area is in competition with them or not.

I’m perplexed because I cannot relate to this but the study goes on to explain that women don’t feel this type of negativity toward themselves when their male counterpart succeeds. To me, I would feel happy and proud and want to encourage their further success. But men reported feeling threatened by their girlfriends even when it wasn’t a matter of outperforming. According to Kate Ratliff, PhD, of the University of Florida, and the study’s lead author, “this research found evidence that men automatically interpret a partner’s success as their own failure, even when they’re not in direct competition.”

The study was performed with 896 people in five separate experiments. The experiments measured explicit self-esteem and implicit self esteem; how respondents said they felt and then subconsciously how they felt about their partners’ performance.

Men Vs. Women

Men Vs. Women

Many times, male respondents reported or said they felt fine, even when they believed their romantic partner was successful. However, the results of the test of implicit self-esteem revealed very much otherwise.

Although I am not feeling great to learn about this very different reaction – something that more than likely will come up in some way in my personal relationship at some point; I feel as if my reaction is very predictable and ‘normal’ for a women.

Struggling Couple

Struggling Couple

I can’t help but get mentally drawn back to the image I used to get when my grandmother lovingly ‘warned’ me when she met my husband to be. She told me then that men don’t like losing to a girl and she advised me not to do my best if we went bowling or anything like that where I had the opportunity to better him. I guess, even after all these years, Granny knew what she was talking about.

Hopefully understanding how different and wide the gap between men and women are when it comes to something like this can help us prepare to bridge it and work on narrowing the differences.

Article: “Gender Differences in Implicit Self-Esteem Following a Romantic Partner’s Success or Failure,” Kate A. Ratliff, PhD, University of Florida, and Shigehiro Oishi, PhD, University of Virginia; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, online Aug. 5, 2013.

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at Full Text Article.

Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Abuse in the news


Sexual abuse, assault, violence

2013-03-13 Clergy sex abuse settlements top $2.5 billion nationwide – There have been nearly 17,000 victims of clergy sexual abuse since 1950 and legal settlements for their suffering continue to climb. [sexual abuse, religion]
2013-03-12 Overturned Sexual Assault Case Spurs Bill to Limit Commanders’ Tribunal Powers – “A bill introduced in the House of Representatives would remove the power of military commanders to unilaterally overturn or lessen the decisions of judges or juries at courts martial under their review. The proposed legislation came as a direct response to the outrage of victim advocates and some lawmakers to the recent case of an Air Force lieutenant colonel granted clemency after a sexual assault conviction.” “According to statistics compiled by the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, 2,420 servicewomen reported they had been victims of sexual assault in 2011. The military estimates that number to represent a mere 13 percent of total abuse.” [military, sexual assault, women]
2013-03-11 Unholy Alliance (NY Times Editorial) – “Gender-based violence is an epidemic. A World Bank report estimated that more women between the ages of 15 and 44 were at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria combined. According to the United Nations and other sources, more than 600 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime…” Yet, halfway into their two-week annual meeting, delegates to the UN Commission on the Status of Women fear they will not be able to agree on a final communiqué, just like last year. Conservative factions from the Vatican, Iran, and Russia are leading efforts to derail the effort yet again. [women, United Nations, domestic violence, sexual assault]
2013-03-06 Two of three women in Colorado prisons diagnosed with psychological disorders – “The number of Colorado female prisoners diagnosed with psychological disorders has risen sharply to more than twice the level of male prisoners. The women are almost without exception victims of severe sexual and physical abuse, experts say. They cycle through jail and prison, often because they don’t get adequate treatment or community support. ‘The trauma histories are extreme,’ said Theresa Stone, chief of mental health at Denver Women’s Correctional Facility. ‘It’s hard to hear what these women have been through.'” [women, incarceration, sexual assault, domestic assault, trauma, treatment access]

2012-12-03 Fighting Back Against Sexual Assault In The Military – Transcript of 30 minute interview. “An investigation into a dozen instructors at Lackland Air Force Base suggests systematic sexual abuse of trainees. Critics say this case is emblematic of a larger problem. The Department of Defense estimates that as many as 19,000 sexual assaults occurred within the military in 2011.” [sexual assault, military, women]

Police ticket for good behavior


Can We Reverse The Stanford Prison Experiment?

by Greg McKeown  |   8:15 AM June 12, 2012

 When I met for lunch with Dr. Phil Zimbardo, the former president of the American Psychological Association, I knew him primarily as the mastermind behind The Stanford Prison Experiment. In the summer of 1971, Zimbardo took healthy Stanford students, gave them roles as either guards or inmates, and placed them in a makeshift prison in the basement of Stanford University. In just days, the prisoners demonstrated symptoms of depression and extreme stress and the guards had become sadistic. The experiment was stopped early. The lesson? As W. Edwards Deming wrote: “A bad system will defeat a good person, every time.” But is the opposite true? I asked Zimbardo, “Can you reverse the Stanford Prison Experiment?”

He answered with a thought experiment referencing the infamous Milgram experiment (where subjects showed such obedience to people in authority that they administered what they believed were fatal electric shocks to patients). Zimbardo, who by an almost unimaginable coincidence went to high school with Stanley Milgram, wondered whether we could conduct a Reverse Milgram Experiment. Could we, through a series of small wins, architect a “slow ascent into goodness, step by step”? And could such an experiment be run at a societal level?

We actually already know the answer:

Positive Tickets

For years, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment in Richmond, Canada ran like any other law enforcement bureaucracy and experienced similar results: recidivism or reoffending rates ran at around 60%, and they were experiencing spiraling rates of youth crime. This forward-thinking Canadian detachment, led by a young, new superintendent, Ward Clapham, challenged the core assumptions of the policing system itself. He noticed that the vast majority of police work was reactive. He asked: “Could we design a system that encouraged people to not commit crime in the first place?” Indeed, their strategic intent was a clever play on words: “Take No Prisoners.”

pos tickets

There you go: A ticket for the good deed you did!

Their approach was to try to catch youth doing the right things and give them a Positive Ticket. The ticket granted the recipient free entry to the movies or to a local youth center. They gave out an average of 40,000 tickets per year. That is three times the number of negative tickets over the same period. As it turns out, and unbeknownst to Clapham, that ratio (2.9 positive affects to 1 negative affect, to be precise) is called the Losada Line. It is the minimum ratio of positive to negatives that has to exist for a team to flourish. On higher-performing teams (and marriages for that matter) the ratio jumps to 5:1. But does it hold true in policing?

According to Clapham, youth recidivism was reduced from 60% to 8%. Overall crime was reduced by 40%. Youth crime was cut in half. And it cost one-tenth of the traditional judicial system.

There is power in creating a positive cycle like Clapham did. Indeed, HBR‘s The Power of Small Wins, recently explored how managers can tap into relatively minor victories to significantly increase the satisfaction and motivation of their employees. It is an observation that has been made as far back as the 1968 issue of HBR in an article by Frederick Herzberg titled, “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?” (PDF). That piece has been among the most popular articles at Harvard Business Review. His research showed that the two primary motivators for people were (1.) achievement and (2.) recognition for achievement.

Very, Very Small Wins

The lesson here is to create a culture that immediately and sincerely celebrates victories. Here are three simple ways to begin:

1. Start your next staff meeting with five minutes on the question: “What has gone right since our last meeting?” Have each person acknowledge someone else’s achievement in a concrete, sincere way. Done right, this very small question can begin to shift the conversation.

2. Take two minutes every day to try to catch someone doing the right thing. It is the fastest and most positive way for the people around you to learn when they are getting it right.

3. Create a virtual community board where employees, partners and even customers can share what they are grateful for daily. Sounds idealistic? Vishen Lakhiani, CEO of Mind Valley, a new generation media and publishing company, has done just that at Gratitude Log. (Watch him explain how it works here).

These are just a few practices. But experimenting with the principle could have far-reaching consequences.

Indeed, Zimbardo is attempting a grand social experiment himself called the Heroic Imagination Project (watch his TED Talk here). The logic is that we can increase the odds of people operating with courage by teaching them the principles of heroism. The results are already fascinating.

The Stanford Prison Experiment was profound. But just imagine what would happen if we could consciously and deliberately reverse it.

Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown is the CEO of THIS Inc., a leadership and strategy design agency headquartered in Silicon Valley. He was recently named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Greg did his graduate work at Stanford. Connect with him on Twitter @GregoryMcKeown.

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How the brain works in Borderline Personality Disorder

 Brain photo by Andrew MasonNew work by University of Toronto Scarborough researchers gives the best description yet of the neural circuits that underlie a severe mental illness called Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and could lead to better treatments and diagnosis.

The work shows that brain regions that process negative emotions (for example, anger and sadness) are overactive in people with BPD, while brain regions that would normally help damp down negative emotions are underactive.

People with BPD tend to have unstable and turbulent emotions which can lead to chaotic relationships with others, and which put them at higher risk than average for suicide. A number of brain imaging studies have found differences in the function of brains of people with BPD, but some of the studies have been contradictory.

A team led by Anthony C. Ruocco, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and program in neuroscience, analyzed data from 11 previously published studies and confirmed a number of important differences between people with BPD and those without.

On the one hand, a brain area called the insula – which helps determine how intensely we experience negative emotions – is hyperactive in people with BPD. On the other hand, regions in the frontal part of the brain – which are thought to help us control our emotional reactions – are underactive.


“It’s not just that they have too much drive from their emotions,” Ruocco says. “They seem to have less of the ‘brakes’

The invisible child


The Invisible Child

I’ve always struggled with the term attachment, used in my profession to denote the relationship that is supposed to develop between mother and infant during the earliest months of life. I may be too concrete, but it makes me think of those poor monkeys in Harlow’s experiment, clinging to that cloth-covered metal skeleton; it seems to imply a kind of behind the mirrorphysical connection when in fact, it’s all about the emotional relationship. In his video on attachment theory, Allan Schore brings that relationship to life when he speaks about the complex interactions between mother and baby — the role of eye contact, physical interaction and facial expresions in creating secure “attachment” — but it still seems to me to be the wrong word.

I’ve had a similar problem with Kohut’s word, mirroring, because to my concrete mind, it suggests that what the mother does is behave like a physical object (a mirror), though lately, I’ve been feeling better about it. In my work with several different clients, I’ve been struck anew with the role of our parents’ attention in creating our sense of self, how important it is that we feel that we are seen. In a fundamental way, we come to know who we are by witnessing our parents’ responses to us; in particular, the joy and love we see in our mother’s face convey to us that we are beautiful and important. Allan Schore has shown how the infant comes with a set of inbuilt expectations and behaviors geared to elicit those parental responses; when the reality of an engaged and loving mother meets those expectations, the result is a secure “attachment” (ugh).

It also results in a secure sense of self, the basis for later self-confidence and self-esteem. But when those expectations are disappointed, as I have explained elsewhere, it leaves the infant with a sense of intrinsic defect and basic shame. This is particularly true when the environment is highly traumatic or abusive. Lately, I’ve also been thinking about a parenting style that isn’t overtly abusive but vacant or largely withdrawn instead. In such a case, though basic shame is an invariable result, the person also develops a sense of unreality, as if he were invisible. It’s as if she looked into the mirror of her mother’s face and found no reflection whatsoever.

In a recent session, my client Alexis was speaking about her boss, with whom she has had an intense and problematic working relationship for many years. Lately, she has “woken up” to the rather nasty ways he sometimes treats her; in this particular session, she told me that she felt as if her boss wanted nothing to do with her or her actual emotional experience. As a result, she had come to feel like a “ghost” at work; this made her want to retreat from their relationship in turn, becoming an impersonal function and discharging her duties in an efficient, detached way. I linked this to her relationship with her father, a college professor who had largely ignored her and her sister, warning them to be silent as he retreated into his study with the graduate students who came for their tutorials. She had felt invisible to her father, and desperate to be noticed by him.

1e6f0c21138bf6ebac99cb1538aa4dd7Alexis also linked this feeling to her mother, a woman who had felt over-burdened by her children and very much wanted to be left alone. Alexis recounted a story recently told to her by her sister Adrienne. Around the age of 8, Adrienne had begun suffering panic attacks in the evenings. Their mother’s response was to give her an over-the-counter sleeping pill and put her to bed with Alexis (age 10), who was then responsible for moving Adrienne to her own bed whenever she felt able to sleep. This “hands off” approach to mothering was typical. Whenever the girls were fighting (as they often did) she would tell them she preferred not to get involved or play referee.

I suggested to Alexis that she felt her mother had wished her to go away, which left Alexis feeling like a ghost, scarcely real. Rather than discovering her sense of self in her mother’s joyful expression, when she looked for a reflection in that mirror, she found it a blank. This discussion helped me understand yet another reason why she has resisted the idea that she’d ever finish treatment and go it alone. Over the long years of our relationship, my bearing witness to her experience and taking a deep interest in her as a person has felt precious to her, an important source of the sense of self she has developed through our work together. On some level, she’s afraid that without me and my attention, she would cease to exist. As a child, she must have felt that way in the absence of parental involvement: as if she were invisible, a ghost child without physical substance.

We ended the session by talking about the importance of being seen and known by others, how at the end of the day, it’s a very small universe of people who “get” you, who are capable of actually seeing you for who you are. It seemed important to acknowledge that I have felt seen and known by her, as well, and that our long relationship has been important to me. How many people understand the work that I do and the psychological issues I consider most important as deeply as Alexis? In a weird way, you’d have to say she knows me better than many of my friends. I also derive a sense of who I am through the mirroring Alexis and my other clients provide to me, just as there’s a kind of reciprocal mirroring that goes on between mother and child.

I wonder if this is why therapists sometimes find it hard to let go of their clients. Maybe they can’t bear to lose that mirroring; they might feel that when a client of long-standing terminates, they lose a little bit of themselves, too.

Joe is the author and the owner of AfterPsychotherapy.com, one of the leading online mental health resources on the internet. Be sure to connect with him on Google+ and Linkedin.

Sometimes the best people leave us first


Loss. Heart-wrenching pain lurching in every corner. Memories that haunt us, tears that fill oceans. Such is the pain of loosing someone you love, and there is no other way than let them come: The feelings, the memories and the pain. The pain is just a proof of our ability to love, a proof that we can do everything for anyone, if we decide to. The hurt has meaning, and no-one can take that away from us.


The following post is from tersia burger: Vic’s final journey.  Vic was the precious daughter of the author of the post, and the blog is about the lifelong battle she had. Read the rest of this entry